(NUI) - Winter is on its way and in its wake the hazards of driving in snow and ice. With some planning and the right equipment, however, you can avoid becoming an accident statistic.
Mark Cox, executive director of the Bridgestone Winter Driving School in Steamboat Springs, Colo., says it's important during the winter months to keep abreast of weather reports in your area.
"If snow or ice is predicted, make plans to leave early or arrive later," he says. "An alarm clock set to an earlier time can be a good friend in helping you avoid difficulties."
Cox also recommends moving a night trip to daylight hours if possible. Not only is visibility better but, if your vehicle is stalled, you are more likely to receive prompt assistance during the daytime.
The key to safer winter driving is preparing your vehicle for come what may, Cox says. He offers this checklist of things to do before winter sets in:
* Check your windshield wiper blades to make sure they work properly. In some areas, snow blades are an effective alternative to conventional wiper blades.
* Have your mechanic test the antifreeze/coolant to ensure it will provide the correct level of protection required in your driving area.
* Keep your gas tank at least half full. The extra volume can help reduce moisture problems within your vehicle's fuel system.
* In rear-wheel-drive vehicles, extra weight in the trunk or truck bed may be helpful. Use care, however. Unsecured weight can shift while the vehicle is moving or if you need to stop suddenly. Bags of sand can provide helpful weight. And, if sprinkled on the ice, sand helps provide better traction.
* Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Underinflated tires can reduce their gripping action because the tread will not meet the road surfaces as it was designed. Overinfla-tion has the same effect.
* If you live in areas where snow and ice are certainties of winter driving, don't depend on all-season tires. Instead, install winter tires. Purpose-built snow and ice tires, such as the Bridgestone Blizzak, are made of softer components and have a unique tread design that provides better traction and road-gripping abilities.
To learn more about winter driving, call Bridgestone/ Firestone at 1-800-807-9555 or the Bridgestone Winter Driving School at 1-800-WHY-SKID.